Local camp operators running midterm camps this week say they are not impressed with the short notice of a major change in health regulations to operate,  “expressed just five days before midterm camps were due to start” today.

Copies of emails were forwarded to Bermuda Real by several camp operators, as well as concerned parents, who have expressed in writing, their concerns to the Ministry of Health regarding the new regulations.

Their main bone of contention is the Ministry’s decision to allow “with no exceptions”, outdo or camps only during the October 2021 midterm break, “as Bermuda is still in Community Transmission”.

And their main problem with the decision dropped on them just five days before the camps were due to begin, is – what happens if it rains rains – like today?

Speaking to Bermuda Real on the condition of anonymity, one camp operator, who questioned the change asked: “Is this the ABSOLUTE BEST decision that could’ve been made?

“I am really questioning the logic behind this. This is like a rollover from the Summer antics.

“Truly this last minute decision will affect many. Can we please start making smart decisions that will take into consideration the well-being of the children, as a whole,” the operator added.

“I truly believe that ZERO consideration has been put into this most recent decision.

“We all understand now that COVID is here to stay, so let’s start making sensible decisions so that we can operate effectively and keep the children in our care safe.”

In response to the concerns sent via email, Ms Beach, in her response, said: “I realize that this decision may affect you and others, but it is the Department of Health’s decision at this time.

“I cannot make any changes or concessions for camps held wholely indoors.”

Camp operators also asked if testing is required for the children to attend school, why can’t testing be required for the children to attend camp?

They also feel that it is not fair that extra curricular activities are taking place, with the mixing of bubbles and asked what makes camps any different?

“The Commnity Centres are currently offering Remote Learning Camps. Dance classes, Martial Arts classes, Gymnastics and numerous other Childcare programmes are currently operating, yet Camps are catching flack,” one operator stated.

“Can it not be mandatory for a Negative test result to be given, in order for the child to attend Camp? Was this not considered?

“It is almost as if you all are trying to force Camp Directors to cancel their Camps. This is not making sense.”

Ms Beach, in her response, was adamant that she has explained why this decision was made and that “we were aware that indoor camps would be affected, unfortunately”.

“I have to stress that we do not want and camps to close down.”

But the camp operators maintained that they remain “frustrated with why this is happening, especially with such short notice”.

Referring back to the requirements put in place for Summer Day Camps, when the Delta variant of the coronavirus was running rampant, she said: “Everything was a little hyped.”

On top of that she said camp operators had to purchase extra supplies because children would turn up with no masks daily.

“Sadly, we had to start charging parents.” 

Earlier this month, in an email dated October 13, Marie Beach, the Healthy Schools Coordinator “apologized for our tardiness”, saying the Department of Health “has been going full out in managing the spread of the virus in the current wave, since July 2021”.

She provided the following top three updates since Summer 2021:

  1. All camp operators will have to register and receive approval to operate for their camp for each school break. Your registration and approval to operate over Summer 2021, was good for July – September 2021, only.
  2. For each school break, you will have to have a new approval to operate notification and certificate.
  3. With no exceptions, only outdoor camps are permitted to operate during the October 2021 midterm break, as Bermuda is still in Community Transmission.

It was also noted that the department was “currently updating the website to reflect that only outdoor camps can be held”.

“Should any aspect this update change”, Ms Beach advised camp operators that she would let them know.

“As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus causes much of what we are able to do and advise, extremely fluid,” she added.

“Sometimes, things move at the last minute and fairly quickly.

“Thanks for your patience and understanding.”

The regulations for summer day camps this year called for no more than 14 children per room with strict rules for camp operators to maintain bubbles of 14.

But some parents had their children in camps for two weeks at a time before moving them to other camps throughout the 10 weeks of summer day camps.

While the requirements called for no more than 14 people in a room at any one time, 26 children were allowed to board minibuses at a time.

“We’re still going over the number of people allowed to be put together,” the camp operator said.

And the financial impact of COVID restrictions affects “a whole heap of people”, like minibus operators, the numbers at the aquarium and other popular sites geared for children.

As an entrepreneur who runs school camps all year round, this operator also experienced the impact of COVID firsthand, at a time when “they had said that you can’t really get it from children”.

“I did get it from one of my children in my summer day camp last year, when all the schools went on the mass lockdown because all of this. The parent actually contacted me and told me that their child was one of them.”

Asked what was the worst thing about battling COVID, she said: “It was never two days alike.

“It started off with just having what I thought wastrouble with my sinuses. The next day I was just experiencing chills with no sinus problems. And then the next day after that it was no chills but it was shortness of breath.

“It was just something different every day and it lasted for about a week and then by the second week it was like I didn’t have anything.

I’m not sure now that I have antibodies if I can still get it because now they’re talking about all these different strains of the virus and I’m not sure exactly how that works.

“I know that for the COVID that I got – the strain that I got – I’m sure I should be straight with that one.”